Saturday, October 18, 2008

Veronica's Veggie Meatloaf with Checca Sauce

Cook Time: 1 hour 30 min
Level: Intermediate
yield: 4-6 servings


Checca Sauce:

* 1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 2 cups, or 12 ounces), halved
* 3 scallions (white and pale green parts only), coarsely chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, chopped
* 8 fresh basil leaves
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* Pinch salt
* Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Lentil Loaf:

* 3/4 cup lentils (about 5 ounces)
* 3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
* 1 cup uncooked short-grain brown rice, rinsed well
* 1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
* 1/2 cup shredded carrots
* 1 celery rib, sliced
* 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
* 2 tablespoons butter, divided
* 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves (about 4 cups)
* 1 1/2 cups cubed whole milk mozzarella cheese, divided (about 8
ounces total)
* 2 eggs, lightly beaten
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons
* 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 tomato, sliced


For the Checca Sauce: Combine the cherry tomatoes, scallions, garlic,
basil, and oil in a processor. Pulse the tomatoes until they are
coarsely chopped, being careful not to puree. Set aside. Season the
sauce with salt and pepper.

For the Lentil Loaf: Place the lentils in a large saucepan of cold
water. Bring the water just to a boil over high heat. Carefully drain
the boiling water and rinse the lentils. Meanwhile, in a heavy large
saucepan over medium heat, bring the broth to a boil. Add the rice and
return the liquid to a boil. Decrease the heat to low, cover the rice,
and gently simmer without stirring for 10 minutes. Stir in the
lentils, onion, carrot, and celery. Cover and continue cooking without
stirring until the rice and lentils are tender and the liquid is
absorbed, about 30 minutes longer. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle the
corn over the rice and lentils and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
Uncover and fluff the rice with a fork. Cover and let stand for 5 more

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread 1 tablespoon of the butter over a 10 by 4 1/2 by 3-inch loaf
pan. In a heavy, large skillet, cook the spinach over medium heat
until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Drain and squeeze the excess
liquid from the spinach. Transfer the spinach to a work surface and
coarsely chop.

In a large bowl, gently mix the lentil mixture, spinach, 1 cup of the
mozzarella cheese, eggs, 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, basil, salt,
pepper, and half of the checca sauce. Spoon the mixture into the
prepared pan. Arrange the sliced tomatoes in a row over the lentil
mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and
2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Dot the top with the remaining 1
tablespoon of butter.

Bake uncovered until the loaf is heated through and the topping is
melted and starting to brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15
minutes. Slice the loaf into 2-inch slices, arrange on plates, and
serve with the remaining checca sauce.


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